The injured Far Eastern leopard that was found on the border with China in June 2015 is getting ready to be transferred to the Centre for Rare Animal Species Reproduction of the Moscow Zoo following rehabilitation. There the leopard will join a breeding programme for Red Data Book felines. In the capital, Nikolai (the name border guards gave the animal known by its ID number, Leo 80M) will be mated with female leopards from other world zoos that are also part of the leopard breeding programme.
At the Centre for Rare Animal Species Reproduction, Nikolai will be kept in a special enclosure, not in a cage for public exhibition. This means the only people he will see are zoo specialists. After doctors examined the animal in March, a decision was taken to include the predator in the breeding programme and preparations to transport him to Moscow began. Since Nikolai will not be hunting deer at his new home, he was gradually switched to a diet of fresh meat. Once cautious of humans, the leopard became more tolerant of people and less fearful of the researcher taking care of him.
© Primorskii Regional Non-commercial Organization “The Center for Rehabilitation and Reintroduction of Tigers and Other Rare Animals” (PRNCO “Tiger Center”)
Leo 80M in the Center for Rehabilitation and Reintroduction of Tigers and Other Rare Animals
"He got used to me, and I got attached to him, too. For me he is not just a Far Eastern leopard. He is Leo 80M, my close friend, whose habits and every action I can predict. He is unique, and it will be very sad to part," said Yekaterina Blidchenko, a senior research associate at Land of the Leopard and a zoologist at the Centre for the Rehabilitation and Reintroduction of Tigers and Other Rare Animals.
As of today, nearly 80 Far Eastern leopards are living in the wild, and over 200 spotted predators are kept in zoos all over the world. The latter are descendants of forest-caught animals. After collecting Far Eastern leopards was prohibited in 1956, Leo 80M will be the first member of the subspecies to be officially moved to a zoo from the wild in the past 60 years.
"Adding a leopard from the wild to the Moscow Zoo's animal collection is a very important event for us. It will help improve genetic diversity of the rare species in captivity, which is the basis for the predator's conservation and restoration," stressed Svetlana Akulova, acting general director of the Moscow Zoo.
"Nikolai's rehabilitation for life in the wild is the first and thus unprecedented experience of working with a Far Eastern leopard. The experience will be useful not only for rehabilitating other species in the future but also for gaining a better understanding of leopards' behaviour patterns in the wild. This is vital in developing and implementing measures for the predator's conservation," noted Yelena Shevtsova, deputy director for research at Land of the Leopard.
Leo 80M will be brought to Moscow by plane from Vladivostok.